Commission Welcomes Demise of Pacific Solution

Media Release

Monday 10 December 2007

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission has welcomed news that the new Federal Government is beginning the process of ending the former Coalition Government’s “Pacific Solution.

The “Pacific Solution” saw many asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters placed in centres on the Pacific island nation of Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

Under the administration of new Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, the Immigration Department has recognised a number of Burmese asylum seekers on Nauru as refugees and announced that they and a number of Sri Lankan refugees on the island should be settled in Australia soon.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that the decision is a cause for celebration on International Human Rights Day, December 10.

Australia’s Bishops have consistently criticised the “Pacific Solution” as an abuse of the dignity of asylum seekers placed on Nauru and Manus Island,” Mr Arndt said.

“The Bishops called for an end to the ‘Pacific Solution’ in their Social Justice Sunday Statement in September this year,” he said.

“It is unacceptable that people who have fled persecution and violence should be placed in detention indefinitely and without adequate independent monitoring and support,” he said.

“This sort of treatment can have significant psychological effects on detainees and the Immigration Minister has acknowledged this when he referred to concerns about the mental health of the Burmese refugees who have been on Nauru for some time,” he said.

Mr Arndt said that there is still a need for more change if Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is to be seen as fully respecting the human dignity and rights of people who flee to our shores.

“One of the clear challenges facing the new Government is to ensure that re-settlement support for refugees is adequate,” Mr Arndt said.

“We not only have a responsibility to take in people who are fleeing persecution, but we must also ensure that these people, who are often highly traumatised, are provided with the support they need to re-settle in a new and very different country,” he said.

“Our refugee policy needs to place less emphasis on protecting our own interests and to put more stress on showing compassion and respect to people who are in great need,” he said.

“As the Bishops said in their Social Justice Sunday Statement, Catholics can play their part by encouraging our elected representatives to be more inclusive, welcoming and compassionate in the policies they develop and implement,” he said.

“Many Catholic organisations, parishes and individuals have provided much support to asylum seekers and refugees in recent years and they will certainly be pleased to hear that more progress is being made in protecting the dignity of our neighbours in need,” he added.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right. The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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